In June 2016, the Chinese government introduced a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines governing mobile apps and games. These regulations came into effect in August 2016. Like much of China’s legal system, these rules can be complex and open to interpretation by enforcement authorities. Primarily, they aim to safeguard user privacy, combat fraud, and uphold intellectual property laws.

Expanding on this, it’s important to recognize that the Chinese government, in an effort to protect users and ensure the integrity of its digital landscape, implemented these regulations to establish clear standards for mobile app and game development. These standards, while introduced in 2016, are still relevant today and require ongoing compliance efforts.

Developers often encounter the challenge that different Android app stores in China may have varying interpretations of compliance. While one store might accept an app or game, another could reject it based on their individual compliance criteria. This discrepancy often necessitates communication and adjustments to meet the specific store’s requirements.

The regulations outline six key obligations for app and game creators, each designed to ensure user safety and regulatory compliance:

1. Real-Name Verification

China operates on the principle of “real name in the back and voluntary in the front.” This means that while registered users can create a unique username for the app, their actual identity must be registered within the system through a verification process, typically via a phone verification system. This system not only adds an extra layer of user security but also makes it necessary to adapt login methods, potentially limiting the convenience of using someone else’s phone to access certain apps.

2. Implement Effective User Information Protection Measures

Just as in the USA and other countries, China mandates the use of industry-standard safeguards to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This commitment to data protection is in line with global standards and emphasizes the importance of safeguarding users’ sensitive information.

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3. Create a System to Audit and Manage User-Generated Content

App creators and app store service providers must ensure that their apps do not facilitate activities that violate national security, disrupt social order, or infringe on the rights of others. Prohibited content includes violence, pornography, libel, deception, and more. All games must undergo a thorough content review before being issued a Game License (GRN/ISBN) by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA). This scrutiny aims to create a safer and more responsible digital environment.

For a detailed list of content restrictions in China, please refer to this link.

4. Protect Users’ Rights to Control Their Information

Apps must explicitly request and obtain user consent to access functions such as location data, contact lists, cameras, and sound recording. Features unrelated to the app’s core functionality cannot be bundled with the app. This respect for user control is integral to maintaining trust and transparency.

5. Respect and Safeguard Intellectual Property Rights

Apps must not infringe on the intellectual property of others. This commitment to intellectual property protection ensures that creators’ rights are upheld and prevents piracy or unauthorized use of content.

6. Record and Retain User Log Information

User login information must be recorded and stored for a minimum of 60 days. This record-keeping requirement serves not only to maintain accountability but also to assist with investigations in case of any user disputes or issues.

Contrary to any perception that these regulations aim to stifle mobile apps, Article 4 highlights their endorsement of the app market’s role in promoting open government affairs, providing public services, and fostering economic and social development. Certain content types, such as gambling, fake news, pornography, or political dissent, are either banned or heavily restricted in China, subject to government approval.

Managing Personal User Information

In March 2018, China’s National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee (TC260) issued the Personal Information Security Specification, setting standards for the collection, storage, and use of personal user information. These standards aim to prevent illegal or excessive collection and dissemination of user data. Subsequent guidelines from the Cyberspace Administration of China further clarify privacy standards for mobile app creators. They emphasize labeling customized content driven by personal information and adherence to the Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China, which is similar to data protection laws in the USA and Europe.

App Store Regulations and Responsibilities

App stores in China bear four management responsibilities:

  1. Verify the authenticity, security, and legality of application providers and establish a credit management system. This helps maintain a trustworthy environment for users.

  2. Encourage application providers to protect user information and provide comprehensive descriptions of data collection and usage practices. This transparency ensures that users understand how their data is used.

  3. Promote the publication of legal content, establish robust security review mechanisms, and employ qualified professionals suitable for the service scale. These requirements aim to prevent harmful or inappropriate content from reaching users.

  4. Encourage application providers to publish legitimate apps that respect and protect intellectual property. This commitment ensures that apps uphold the rights of creators and do not infringe on intellectual property.

In essence, these regulations make app stores accountable for app infringements on their platforms. Think of app stores as partners that help ensure your compliance with local laws. They will audit your app for issues and request documents to confirm your company’s legal registration for publishing in China. However, don’t expect app stores to guide you through the application process for permits and forms; that’s your responsibility.

You’ll also need to complete a Security Assessment Form to detail how you address potential problems. If you’re a 21YunBox client, you can complete this form on your custom backend, with support and sample answers provided.

For more details on the Security Assessment Form, click here.

Data Localization

Recent Chinese regulations require data generated by apps operating in China to be stored within the country. While specific rules regarding cross-border data transmission remain unclear, the general principle dictates that apps collecting PII in China must store that information on servers within China. This not only ensures compliance but also improves data access speed for local users. 21YunBox offers hosting solutions to facilitate this requirement. Cross-border data transfer mandates a security assessment, government approval, and user consent.

Licensing for China

Depending on your app’s nature (e.g., mobile app, game, or SaaS platform), you may need additional licenses in China. For example, shopping and e-commerce platforms require a Commercial ICP license, while apps featuring video chat or conferencing need a B22 Domestic Multi-Party Communications Services license. We can assist you in determining the exact licenses your venture needs to comply with Chinese regulations.

For a comprehensive understanding of legal compliance for apps and games in China, click here.

The Easiest Way

21YunBox offers an international team headquartered in Beijing, providing app creators with a straightforward and efficient process for company registration, IP protection, Chinese legal compliance, and app publication on top Android app stores. Our user-friendly online dashboard streamlines document submission and status tracking. Additionally, you have the support of a dedicated account manager available via phone, email, and messaging.

Once your app is distributed in China, we continue to provide services like localization, monetization, user acquisition, hosting, and more, ensuring your app’s success. Feel free to contact us or sign in to our free dashboard account to explore how we can assist you.